- US: Dow Futures: 13012.00 (-0.41%), S&P 500 Futures: 1390.50 (-0.50%), NASDAQ Futures: 2725.00 (-0.37%)
- Europe: CAC: 3474.02 (-1.54%), DAX: 6977.23 (-1.35%), FTSE: 5848.70 (-0.74%).
- Asia-Pacific:Australia: 4273.70 (0.46%),China: 2375.77 (-0.10%),Hong Kong: 20901.56 (0.21%),India: 5228.45 (-2.54%),Japan: 10127.28 (0.40%).
- Metals: Gold: 1637.20 (-0.79%), Silver: 31.78 (-1.39%), Copper: 3.77 (-1.89%)
- Energy: Crude Oil: 106.00 (-1.18%), Natural Gas: 2.34 (-0.68%)
- 10 year US Treasury: 2.280% (-0.018)
Market and Economy News Update
Better than expected jobless claims fail to cheer U.S. stock index futures: Despite a better-than-expected jobless claims report, U.S. stock index futures held their losses in morning trade, as investors were worried by weak European and Chinese economic data. The Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDEXDJX:.DJI), S&P 500 (INDEXSP:.INX) and NASDAQ (INDEXNASDAQ:.IXIC) were all down close to half a percent.
Jobless claims decline: In a fresh sign of strength in the labor market, new U.S. claims for unemployment benefits fell to a new four-year low last week. The Labor Department said initial claims for state unemployment benefits fell 5,000 to a seasonally adjusted 348,000.
European markets decline for the fourth consecutive day: European markets declined for a fourth straight session on Thursday as manufacturing contracted in China and the euro area. The Euro STOXX 50 of euro zone blue chips fell 1.4 percent, while the German DAX and the French CAC 40 fell more than a percent.
Euro Zone economy declines in March: Hit by a sharp fall in French and German factory activity, the euro zone economy declined in March. Markit’s Eurozone Composite PMI unexpectedly fell to 48.7 in March from 49.3 recorded the previous month. The Euro-area services and manufacturing output contracted in March, more than economist forecast, due to declining domestic demand.
Asian markets end mixed: Asian markets ended mixed on Thursday as data showed China’s manufacturing may contract this month. The Nikkei closed up 0.4 percent after the country posted an unexpected trade surplus. The Shanghai Composite Index ended 0.1 percent down and the Hang Seng Index was up 0.2 percent. Indian stocks tumbled the most in Asia as the rupee weakened to a two-month low. The S&P CNX Nifty Index on the National Stock Exchange of India fell 2.5 percent.
Chinese factory activity shrinks: The HSBC flash purchasing managers index, a Chinese manufacturing index, fell sharply in March, showing a preliminary reading of 48.1, the lowest since November last year. A reading below 50 indicates a contraction.
Japan reports trade surplus for February: Japan reported an unexpected trade surplus for February, the first in five months, as Japanese exports fell at a slower pace than the previous month.
Company News Update
- FedEx (NYSE:FDX) fell 2 percent in premarket trading after the company reported fiscal third-quarter earnings that were better than analysts expectations but warned that fourth-quarter earnings may fall below current projections.
- McDonald’s (NYSE:MCD) slid 0.5 percent after the blue-chip restaurant operator said Chief Executive Officer Jim Skinner will retire at the end of June 30, and will be succeeded by the current the chief operating officer, Don Thompson,
- Discount retailer, Dollar General (NYSE:DG), jumped more than 2 percent after posting better than expected fiscal fourth-quarter earnings and revenue. The company provided an upbeat outlook for 2012.
- ConAgra (NYSE:CAG) reported slightly better than expected earnings of 51 cents per share. The stock was down 1 percent in premarket trading.
- Lululemon Athletica (NASDAQ:LULU), the athletic apparel maker, fell 2.7 percent in early trading after reporting a surge in revenue. But shares as the company lowered guidance.
- United Utilities (LON:UU), Britain’s largest listed water utility, was up 0.3 percent after it forecast a strong performance for the full year, with sales rising in line with market estimates.
- Rio Tinto (LON:RIO) shed 2.3 percent in London trading as copper prices fell 1.6 percent and the weak manufacturing data from China added to demand worries.
- Hermes International SCA (EPA:RMS), the French maker of Kelly bags and silk scarves, jumped 2.8 percent after posting a better than expected earnings, and also offering a bonus dividend to shareholders.
- Oil and gas engineering company, Amec Plc (LON:AMEC) shed 2.7 percent after JPMorgan Chase & Co. downgraded the stock to “neutral” from “overweight”.
- German chemical maker, Lanxess AG (FRA:LXS), which was spun off from Bayer AG (FRA:BAYN) in 2005, soared 6.8 percent after posting fourth-quarter profit that beat analysts’ estimates. The company was boosted by higher demand from Brazil and China.
- Drugs wholesaler and pharmacy support services provider, Sigma Pharmaceuticals (ASX:SIP) soared 5.7 percent inSydney trading after reporting a profit of $49.2 million for fiscal 2011. This follows two consecutive years of losses, and the company was able to make the return to profitability on the back of gains in market share and improved working capital.
- Nomura Holdings Inc. (TYO:8604) lost 1.3 percent and was the most traded stock on the bourses after reports surfaced linking the brokerage firm to an insider-trading case connected to Inpex Corp. (TYO:1605)’s 2010 equity offering.
- Agricultural Bank of China (HKG:1288), the country’s fourth-biggest lender, reported a 28.56 percent rise in net profits, but was still below the market forecasts
- Chinese internet giant Tencent Holdings Ltd (HKG:0700) was the biggest gainer on the Hang Seng Index, jumping 3 percent to the highest level since June last year.
- Huaneng Power (HKG:0902) jumped 4.6 percent inHong Kong after Deutsche Bank analysts upgraded the stock to a “buy” rating.
- Footwear retailer Belle International Holdings (HKG:1880) surged for the second consecutive day after reporting 2011 earnings on Wednesday that were largely in line with analysts expectations.
Economic Calendar for Thursday, March 22, 2012:
08:30 A.M. ET: Jobless Claims
10:00 A.M. ET: FHFA House Price Index (January)
10:00 A.M. ET: Leading Indicators (MoM) (February)
10:30 A.M. ET: EIA Natural Gas Report
12:45 P.M. ET: Ben Bernanke Speaks
04:00 P.M. ET: Chicago Federal Reserve President Charles Evans speaks
04:30 P.M. ET: Fed Balance Sheet
04:30 P.M. ET: Money Supply